If you are a student, chances are you have felt the burden of expensive textbooks and supplements. You may find yourself asking, why exactly am I spending so much money on textbooks? One leading factor is that, generally, students are not part of the process of choosing course textbooks. Unfortunately, that process is an engrained one closely controlled by large publishers with a strong hold on the market and by the instructors they serve. Typically, students are caught in the middle of this moneymaking merry-go-round and each semester they are forced into buying required textbooks hovering near $200 per title.
But all hope is not lost! Today, instructors, students, and companies alike are working to change all this. Their efforts have produced equivalent alternatives and additional tools made available at a fraction of the price of the competition – or free altogether – effectively disrupting the antiquated traditional model of yesteryear. So how can you get your instructor, or your school to adopt affordability? Try these techniques:
1. Talk to your Professor/Advisor
More likely than not, your teacher has a hand in what title he/she utilizes for class. Engage them in a conversation; ask the tough questions. If they assigned you a wildly priced textbook that emptied your wallet, you might politely ask them why it was chosen. Express your feelings that the price of the book was outrageous. Tell them how it affected you. By opening the lines of communication, you can begin to challenge your instructor to find ways with which to pass savings on to their students – something both parties can smile about.
2. Reach out to Dept. Chairs/School President
Much like you would contact a political representative over an injustice – reach out to dept. heads. Department chairs are pivotal in deciding which textbooks students within your major use. This person’s contact information can generally be found online using a faculty directory. Send them an informed and brief email or letter explaining your irritation over expensive textbooks. Encourage your friends to do the same – or have them sign yours. Again, provide examples of affordable alternatives (the Center of Math is a good place to start). To help aid your search, visit Akademos, a textbook search tool we like very much (filter by topic and price).
Below is an email template to consider which might help get you started.
I am reaching out to you today to discuss the textbooks used among <your major> majors at <your school>. The cost of these titles and accompanying supplements has become an unacceptable financial burden and, consequently, a significant barricade to accessibility. I believe <your school> can do better. I would like to take the time to introduce you to some fairly priced alternatives on the market, which can be found here: (links to affordable titles). We must, as I suspect you might agree, continue to innovate and find ways to make our education more affordable and accessible. I would jump at the opportunity to discuss the available options with you. Thank you for your considerations.
(Your name and contact info)”
3. Used books/Rentals
Change won’t occur overnight, so chances are that for now, you will encounter expensive required course books. In this case, take advantage of all the options available to save. Buy digital when available. Buy used or rent the title. Be sure to take advantage of book buy-back programs. Popular services such as Chegg will help you.
Having read this article, you have already begun your campaign towards affordable and accessible textbooks and resources. Remember, open the lines of communication and be prepared with solutions! Awareness is the first step to action. Thank you for your interest in the cause and considering these small steps towards redefining the industry and the incurred expenses of education for all.
To learn more about the Worldwide Center of Mathematics, click here.
Here are some additional ideas of how you can get involved:
- Get the word out! – voice your opinion to friends and social networks. The more students are aware a take action, the greater the chance that faculty will listen.
- Write something about the price of the textbook on your course evaluation form.
- Reach out to student organizations related to the improvement of your school’s educational standards and present this as a pressing issue.